By Brooke Bryan
David Tulin ’66: “We must be upstanders, not bystanders”
David Tulin '66 was an Antioch student during a tumultuous period in American history in which norms were questioned and reformed by active citizens who decided to be bystanders no more. Upon arriving to Antioch as a freshman, he volunteered to become a member of ACRE, the Antioch Committee for Racial Equality. During his tenure as an Antioch student, Tulin took part in demonstrations that protested a white barber’s ability to refuse African American patrons and also helped support the unionization efforts of Antioch’s blue collar workers.
“ACRE was a more traditional, take your time, be sensitive and gentle to all points of view non-militant kind of group,” Tulin said. The first sit-in at Gegner’s barbershop, a public accommodations violator for refusing to serve African-American customers, was intense but peaceful and nonviolent, though it still landed him in the Greene County jail.
He posted $500 bond and was released with other student demonstrators ‘on good behavior.’ “Good behavior, it was explained to us, meant that we would not engage in other such demonstrations,” he said.
Upon release, Tulin was preparing for a year-long Antioch Education Abroad program in Israel. With his departure so near, he had no intentions of further activist work. Yet he found himself as one of some 500 bystanders at the largest of the barbershop demonstrations in March of 1964, one that spread over Route 68 and included students from Antioch, Wilberforce and Central State, and many local residents.
Tulin noted an influx of state police cars, and watched as state officers started throwing tear gas into the crowd.
“One of the State troopers’ tear bombs hit the face of one of my girlfriends, and I threw it back,” he said, remembering how the whole thing became “a mess.”
Now a fully engaged member of the demonstration, Tulin locked arms with others blocking the road in front of the barbershop. As the number of protesters and town onlookers rapidly grew in the face of what was seen as police overreaction to a peaceful demonstration, row after row of hundreds of demonstrators sat in the street singing movement hymns such as “We Shall Overcome” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
The officers, using makeshift bullhorns, then announced that they would be arresting all persons who did not leave within five minutes. Thinking about his earlier jail release on bail on the condition of “good behavior,” and fearing putting his upcoming scholarship year abroad in jeopardy, Tulin unlocked arms and moved to safety on the sidewalk to avoid arrest.
As the troopers moved through the rows of demonstrators making arrests, Tulin witnessed something that moved him to act.
“One of the officers grabbed an African-American girl— probably about 16 or 17—and pulled and dragged her by her hair to arrest her. Her skirt was riding up and she was screaming and crying,” he said. “All I remember is that I jumped through the crowd of bystanders back into the street and jumped the cop. The girl escaped the trooper’s grasp, I was hit on the head with a bully club and thrown into a paddy wagon.”
Demonstrators were taken to the Xenia jail, cramped into a small area with dirt floors and old shackles, breathing the tear gas off each other’s clothes. Tulin’s parents mortgaged the family home to put up his $5,000 bail.
The overall demonstration was a cacophony of action and sound, and for Tulin, the singing in unison somehow gave people the courage to become who they authentically were, investing in group action to make change. The demonstration gained urgency and while it escalated beyond the more passive, nonviolent tenants of his ACRE training, Tulin said he is proud of his actions that day.
He later understood his actions that day as a classic example of what his Antioch philosophy professor, Al Denman, would describe as a necessary but involuntary existential choice between the value-based “essence” and the comfortable and more secure “existence.”
Becoming a Change Maker
Tulin’s experiences as an Antiochian pointed him towards a lifetime career facilitating diversity and inclusiveness training in education, nonprofit management, and Fortune 500 companies around the world. But according to Tulin, change makers have to find ways to sustain their social justice work.
When David found himself exhausted and frustrated while working daily with Philadelphia police officers and cadets, he realized he needed to shift his mindset. Referencing a Lincoln quote, he practiced treating participants based upon the “better angels of their nature.”
The concept of mindfulness was a game changer for Tulin. He moved beyond seeing officers or executives or managers as “change resistors,” coming to see them instead as empowered clients hungry for a paradigm shift.
For Tulin, becoming a transformational change agent means working from a mindset that sees those who may be resistant to change as also deserving of respect and honor, who are worthy of our support as they work to unshackle themselves from stereotypes, comfort zones, and biases they learned as children from their (often well-intentioned but flawed) parents, teachers, and the media.
Today, Tulin is executive director of Fellowship Farm, where he hosts two Antioch Co-op students each term, immersing them in the same kinds of organizing and facilitation skills he developed during his time at Antioch and beyond. In addition, Fellowship Farm is supporting these student’s research and outreach as they go out into Philadelphia city high schools to train students to interview each other. The effort creates a space for sustained student dialogue, while documenting contemporary diversity and inclusiveness issues in Philadelphia schools during an intense period of financial crises, school mergers, program cutbacks, and overcrowding.
“We have to continue to believe that we, as individuals can make a difference,” he said. “We can only survive and succeed by having joy and hope and allies in our work.”
Share your story of Change Making: A call for alumni participation
Herndon Gallery will host a collaborative exhibit curating stories of change making during the months of June, July, and August 2014. Activate Now, a collaborative exhibit, hopes to advance creative dialogue on activism— both historical and contemporary— at Antioch College.
The Activate Now curatorial team asks students, faculty, alumni, and community members to submit personal archives or imaginative works that may broaden understanding of our history, animate current campaigns, and embolden our future as an activist community that embraces “an optimistic view of the possibilities in social change”.  ( Former Antioch President Algo Henderson, November, 1946. Available: http://antiochcollege.org/antiochiana/songs_from_the_stacks/songs_from_the_stacks_063011.html)
Activate Now will feature the art of Stephen Marc, a photographer and digital artist who creates compelling large-scale narratives using archival materials merged with contemporary images of place and struggle connected to the Underground Railroad, Emancipation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Films by Ken Jacobs will also be found within the exhibit. Jacobs, a pioneer in the creative use of archival images, is one of few living artists whose work has been deemed a “National Treasure” by the Library of Congress. A Distinguished Professor Emeritus, and founder of the Cinema department at SUNY Binghamton, Jacobs' work has shown at MOMA, the Louvre, the Getty Center, and other venues.
Alumni are invited to work with curators and current students to share how your own experience of activism and change making began at Antioch. How are the big issues of today the same or different than those that framed your Antioch experience? What kind of skill sets does one need to be a change maker?
Alumni are invited to contribute to Activate Now in these ways:
- Participatory Events - A series of events called Activate Now! 101 are being planned to include open forum panel conversations and workshops about activism. Discussion topics could include: Current student activist efforts; effective activism today; the art of difficult conversations; learning vs. action. We invite proposals from alumni to initiate or suggest topics or events.
- Archival Pieces - Visual and aural material from Antiochiana and the WYSO Audio Archive, and other alumni archival material documenting change making experience. This will be integrated into a shared archive. Alumni are invited to contribute archival material and work with the curatorial team to wrap a story around it.
- Writings, Publications, Memoir for the Reading Nook- We seek alumni contributions to the reading nook which will be located within the Herndon exhibit space. We welcome contributions of alumni writing, historical and contemporary, on how to organize for social change, and what it means to be a change agent. How do we activate the Antioch mission?
Students Seek Alumni Connection through Activate Now
By Jane Forman ‘17
Many of the buildings on campus today are closed—from the Student Union to Main Building, West Hall to Weston—and as we walk past them it’s almost impossible not to wonder what used to happen inside. We’re constantly told that we’re here to rebuild an institution, one that meant a lot to people and has taken a lot of energy to get back on its feet. It seems natural to be curious about what it is that we’re rebuilding, especially when a lot of us are here due to an interest in the history of this place—after all, coming here in 2013, there wasn’t a single graduating senior who could explain what their time at the current iteration of Antioch meant to them. As a current student, the question of Antioch’s past is an exciting one.
Activate Now is compelling for me because it provides a way for current students to connect with the people who came before us, who might have had similar interests, been involved in successful independent groups, or even made a tangible difference at Antioch and in the world at least in part because of their experience here. Sitting with Raewyn Martyn and other students in Antiochiana, gathering material for the collaborative archive, is the most rewarding when we stumble upon mundane things that can provide frameworks or tools for related work today, such as meeting notes, committee schedules, and event calendars. They’re not as glamorous as sharp photos of demonstrations, but they help provide a tangible way of learning from what has already been done. For people attending Antioch today, with many frameworks undefined and student groups just beginning, I hope that interacting with the show’s reading nook and collaborative archive be inspiring and informative, providing not just a window into the past but also a guide for the future.
Activate Now— A Collaborative Exhibit Sharing Stories of Change Makers
Call for Alumni Participation
E-mail Raewyn Martyn, Visual Arts faculty, to discuss contributing to Activate Now or to get more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
E-mail Brooke Bryan, Co-op Faculty, to schedule an oral history interview documenting your Antioch experience during your campus visit: email@example.com
Contribution proposals due by: Thursday, May 1
Final submission of alumni contributions: Friday, May 23
Herndon Gallery show begins: Tuesday, June 3
Opening event during alumni reunion: Friday, June 13